It’s unfortunate that Baron Davis might be remembered for everything but his undeniable basketball talent: His venture into the entertainment business, the mercurial way he only gets up for games that create their own buzz (see Heat, Miami), and the never ending high-school type drama that’s traveled alongside his miniature bus-tour of a career. He’s one of those guys who has the talent—ridiculous jaw-dropping talent—but never quite lifted himself to the perennial All-Star echelon he could’ve, and should’ve, seen. Moves like this one prove that Davis still has it; hopefully he’s able to maintain his focus on the game that brought him all this fame in the first place. Cleveland deserves it.
Last night the Thunder and Warriors played in one of the more exciting games we’ve seen since the All-Star break. Down six with less than 15 seconds to play, Reggie Williams knocked in a long ball to cut Golden State’s deficit to three, and on the ensuing inbound pass, Daequan Cook threw the ball to Monta Ellis who, of course, drained a game tying three-pointer. It was a miraculous comeback in a sea of regular season muck, but as the narrative tends to lean in basketball games played in Oklahoma City, the Thunder managed to pull things out in the extra period, winning the game 115-114 after Monta Ellis missed what would have been a game winning jumper as time expired. Read more…
Despite his shooting numbers taking a slight dip across the board this season, I still believe Jamal Crawford and the Sixth Man Award belong together; skipping along a moonlit beach, hand in hand, grinning ear to ear. But alas, thanks to some stiffer competition this season, it likely isn’t meant to be. The emergence of Glen Davis, and the usual Lamar Odom/Jason Terry combination are each, apparently, ahead of him in the race. But wouldn’t it be cooler if the award went to someone who was a little more committed to, you know, coming off the bench? Someone who didn’t start a single game for the entire year? Odom (34 starts), Davis (10), and Terry (10) all have played a slightly heavier role than sixth man for their respective teams this season. Crawford? Zero. Both this season and last (when he won the award).
And this could be his last chance at grabbing what he’ll most be associated with once his career comes to a close. The 31-year-old Hawk is losing his explosiveness, attacking the rim less and less; 68% of his shots are launched from at least 16 feet. Then again, who cares about numbers when the clip above gives direct evidence to the contrary. If I had one vote, Jamal Crawford would surely get it.
A few years ago I purchased a white t-shirt with a picture of Len Bias emblazoned across its front. The photo used is an iconic one; Bias on draft night in his loose Celtics baseball hat, slightly tilted to the side. The limitless potential seeps from his all knowing, boyish smile; there is no color on the shirt except for the bright green hat. On the back there’s nothing but a fine-print sentence tattooed up by the neck. In light green type, it reads: The saddest thing in life is wasted talent. For a countless number of reasons, I love this shirt. It’s devastating, mortal, a life lesson, and half-sentimental (I was born the year after Bias’ death) all rolled up in Medium sized 100 percent cotton.
(Before beginning, I’m not entirely sure how to seamlessly segue—if possible—from the catastrophic culture altering event that was Len Bias’ untimely death to Anthony Randolph being on the cusp of cracking the chains of “potential” and “undeveloped” that have been tightly wrapped around his ankles since entering the league, but here’s my starless shot in the dark.)
There’s a tragic quality in watching any person—whether it be by cocaine overdose, or the less serious disdain of elbow grease—fail to achieve what it seems they were put on Earth to do. This season Anthony Ranolph is averaging 19.3 points and 10 rebounds in three games as a starter. In the first two of those games (road battles in Dallas and Oklahoma City) Randolph scored 55 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. Admittedly, that sample size is way too small, so let’s look at his entire career. In 33 games as a starter since entering the league in 2008, Randolph’s averages look like this: 48% from the field, 11.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Nothing crazy but pretty decent numbers considering 30 of those games were amassed before he turned 21. At 6’11″ he has the type of body that frequently pops into the dreams of general managers, and was once described by DraftExpress as possessing “a pterodactyl wingspan and freakish athleticism.”
This from Hoopsworld:
“You have a tall, long, athletic and versatile player who fits in who fits into the system that we run here and playing in the spots on the floor that we want our bigs to play in,” says Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, who started Randolph in place of the injured Kevin Love on Thursday. “I think it’s a natural fit for him. He’s still not real secure in what we do here on either end of the floor. He’s still learning, and there’s probably not enough time left in the season for him to ever get to that comfort level, but we see his ability to run the floor, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the basketball, and we envision him being a type of player who can guard certain players, maybe two, three or even four positions, not only on-ball, but also he’s a good weak-side help defender, as well.”
“I think he has a lot of upside and a lot of talent,” says Timberwolves swingman Wesley Johnson. “He can put the ball on the floor and really stretch the defense out. He’s really athletic, too, so he can really cause problems for our opponents. He can also block and alter shots, so he’s going to help us get up and down and be an up-tempo team.”
For Randolph, it’s just a chance to play…finally, to play.
I like watching players like Randolph grow, and seeing that progress stunted, to me, is as equally sad as a season ending knee injury (except in the case of Shaun Livingston, of course). To watch Randolph finally sniff the success so many saw in his future is a wonderful thing. As mentioned earlier, it’s only been two games so there’s nothing to get overly excited about, but when you tally a career high 31 points in your first start of the season, heads need spin. Yes, last night he scored just three points in 16 minutes, but there’s more to analyze in his positive performances than the loss against Boston; he was going up against an especially angry and motivated Kevin Garnett. Anthony Randolph has all the tools to succeed, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does now that they’ll likely be on full display for the rest of the regular season. Root for him. He deserves it.
If you’ve ever played basketball in your life then you’re well aware that crossovers are as ingrained in the game as the hardworking defenders who subsequently embarrass themselves trying to stop them. But to be fair to all those who’ve taken a spill trying to stay in front of that tricky pill, these guys are only doing so because they’re trying. They’re trying to move as quick backwards as their man is moving forwards. They’re trying to read their opponent’s mind and guess which way they’re headed, which direction they want to go. This clip does not fall under the same category. Leandro Barbosa puts forth about the same effort as a hungover clown hired to entertain a little girl’s birthday party. Ben Gordon’s move is a gross one, don’t get me wrong, but come on Leandro! At the very least take a little tumble. That way you’ll at least let the people who love you know you’re trying.
1) If you haven’t already seen it, one of my favorite writers, Bethlehem Shoals, took on the upcoming cycle’s least important free agents. It’s neither a sanguine nor pretty open market out there.
2) Last night David West suffered what might be a career shifting knee injury. In recent weeks he’s been quite talkative about his upcoming free agency; rightfully optimistic, sounding like a player who’s ready to reap the benefits of all the hard work put forth towards his profession. The primal screams that can be heard from the video linked above are as difficult to hear as anything in the sport, and I can only hope a good guy like West comes back stronger than before. On the long list of Things That Aren’t Fair In This World, a dedicated athlete tearing an ACL is definitely up there.
3) Not to be a selfish Sally, but if Kevin Love’s really out the rest of the year with a groin injury, my fantasy basketball team can kiss its championship chances goodbye.
4) Video evidence that the game’s most intense man is for real.
5) I like StatsCube. You should too. Here it takes a look at who should win the Most Improved Player award.
6) Great article on the staying in school vs. leaving early argument.
7) Hardwood Paroxysm’s wonderful look at the pressures Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant have ahead of them, and how they could shape the two youngsters.
Sports Illustratred arrived in the mail yesterday. In it, Dan Patrick interviews basketball hero Larry Bird, asking him several general questions one would love to ask a Hall of Fame icon. Bird could shoot from wherever he wanted in the front court and make the type of passes that had you convinced another set of eyes were creeping through his long blonde hair. The way he competed each play, it was like the sport of basketball was 24 hours away from being outlawed in this country; it’s what made him such an incredible legend. As the interview is winding down, Patrick asks Bird if he’s the best shooter in NBA history. Bird deflects the praise: “I don’t know about that. Steve Nash is a great shooter. There’s a lot of them.”
Steve Nash. So glorious in his unprecedented mid-30′s prime, crossing up a younger, more elite point guard and still giving it up to a teammate in the end. Great shooter? Yes. Great (possibly still underrated) player? Even more so.
To be underrated in the NBA is the ultimate form of short term acknowledgment. As noted by several league observers, a player can only be underrated for so long before his increased exposure magically catapults him to the opposite end of the spectrum, overrated. (Paul Millsap, Kendrick Perkins, and David West are great examples to this rule.) Right now, as Houston finds themselves fighting to squeeze into the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, two of the league’s perpetually unnoticed players are beginning to form one of the most formidable and consistently dangerous backcourts in the NBA: Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin. The two are under contract to play alongside one another until at least 2013 (with Lowry locked down an extra year) and both define being underrated. From earlier this week on True Hoop:
Kevin Martin scored 34 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 110-108 win over the Utah Jazz, moving them within two-and-a-half games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Martin was 18-for-18 from the free-throw line, the most free throws without a miss by a Rockets player in the past 25 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the eighth time in Martin’s career that he shot 15-for-15 or better from the foul line, tying Dolph Schayes for the second-most such games in NBA history. Oscar Robertson did it 11 times. Martin’s teammate Kyle Lowry chipped in 28 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for his first career triple-double. It’s the fifth-highest point total in a triple-double in the NBA this season.
With Lowry proving game after game he’s more than capable of leading a team as its starting point guard, and a healthy Martin putting together yet another elite scoring season that’s all but ignored by the national stage, the Rockets are set at two very important positions. Championships can be won with this backcourt. Martin is ninth in the league in usage percentage which might be one of the reasons why Houston isn’t a better team. Not to knock him, but with their foundation set in their starting rotation’s backcourt, all the Rockets need to compete for a legitimate championship is an All-Star caliber frontcourt presence. I realize this solution sounds elementary—like a Bulls fan saying “wait a minute, all we need is Dwyane Wade to take Bogans’ place, and we’re unbeatable!”—but more of it is realizing that whenever Houston chooses to quit treading water and swing a multiple assets for impact player type deal, they’ll be right there at the top.
Kyle Lowry: Thought to have a suitable career backup ceiling, a door opened for Lowry when Aaron Brooks went down with an injury early in the year. Opportunity presented itself and Lowry has more than taken advantage. Coming off the first triple double of his career, he was recently named the Western Conference Player of the Week, and his growing ability as a crunch time scorer (anybody who saw the loss to Phoenix last week knows what I’m talking about) has really raised his profile. According to 82games.com, this season the Rockets have scored 5.6 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, tallying a net total of +382 points. Going back to his days at Villanova, I’ve always liked Lowry for his pugnacious style of play. He doesn’t back down from anybody, he attacks the basket (three shots at the rim per game) while still being able to create his own three-point shooting opportunities (37.5% of his three-pointers are unassisted), and he’s improving. His win shares, assist percentage, assists per game, effective field goal percentage, points per game, and three point percentage, are all career bests. I unfortunately was never able to watch Calvin Murphy play, but from what I’ve read and heard, Kyle Lowry might be a poor man’s Calvin Murphy. Certainly not an insult.
Kevin Martin: Kevin Martin’s career defines underrated. As mentioned in my brief blurb underneath his Grant Hill crossover clip, Martin leads the NBA in free throws made; he’s taken 27 fewer attempts than Blake Griffin yet has converted on over 100 more. He’s both attempted and made the fourth most three-pointers in the league and rarely has off shooting nights. He’s scored nine or fewer points in just three games this season, and in the eight games where he’s scored 33 or more points, the Rockets have won seven of them.
Taking a quick look at the league’s probable playoff teams, how many backcourts could you exchange Houston’s with and hardly skip a beat? By my count there are 11: Denver, Portland, Dallas, New York, Indiana, Philadelphia, Orlando, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, and Memphis. Boston, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and a Derrick Rose heavy Chicago are the only playoff ready teams who would see a drop off with Lowry and Martin replacing their starting ones and twos. No disrespect to Luis Scola, yet another underrated Rocket, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Morey can swing some sort of deal to bring in a legitimate front court dominator once the CBA situation clears itself up. Someone along the lines of a LaMarcus Aldridge would be nice…if you like science fiction. Dwight Howard is more realistic although not likely; maybe Brook Lopez is a suitable solution. Whatever Houston does to improve their team, breaking up the league’s most underrated backcourt shouldn’t be part of the solution.
So, this isn’t what you’d call a top of the line ankle breaker, but boy oh boy is it effective. Kevin Martin (more to come on him later) has a lion’s heart. He has more free throws than anyone in the league this season and weighs about 165 pounds. Why doesn’t he get the love he deserves? Is it the funky shot? The perpetual playing for non-playoff contenders? The one dimensional reputation? What? What else can he possibly do for you? While I calm myself down, hopefully this clip catches your attention; maybe even turning you into a Kevin Martin believer. Rumble young man, rumble.
Duke is annoying. Nolan Smith won’t be a quality NBA player. Every time the Blue Devils win an angel suffocates itself. All of these statements are true, but, for a sliver of a moment, today I tip my cap. Take that, Jalen!